USA

President Bush exhorted NATO allies Thursday that haven't yet sent more troops to Afghanistan to do so in time for an anticipated spring offensive by resurgent Taliban fighters. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, he reminded NATO members that "an attack on one [member] is an attack on all."

Auditors overseeing contract work in Iraq told House members Thursday that poor accounting, delays, bloated expenses, and shoddy work had led to $10 billion in wasteful or poorly tracked spending.

Output at the nation's factories, mines, and utilities fell by 0.5 percent in January, the largest drop since hurricane Katrina disrupted industrial production 17 months ago, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. In other economic news, housing sales fell in 40 states during the final three months of 2006, according to industry figures.

Starting Friday, State Farm Insurance Cos. will stop writing new homeowner and commercial policies in Mississippi, where it corners the largest share (30 percent share) of the homeowner market. The company said its decision was partly due to the wave of litigation from policyholders since hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

Seeking to protect soldiers from deadly roadside bombs, the Marine Corps has decided to replace all its Humvees in Iraq with more streamlined armored vehicles, The Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday. Although it could take years to complete the switch, the corps plans to spend $2.8 billion on almost 4,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

JetBlue Airways apologized Thursday to passengers who were stuck in its planes at New York's JFK International Airport for as long as nine hours the previous day due to storm- related delays. Customers were offered refunds and free flights.

Driver Michael Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner, scrambled Thursday to get a backup car ready for the famous season-opening stock car event after his crew chief and team director were suspended for cheating. Altogether, NASCAR has now sidelined five crew chiefs before the green flag drops Sunday.

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